Airlines are increasingly becoming data analytics companies that want to use data for a deeper understanding of their markets.

Delivering opening remarks at the Routes Europe conference in Hannover April 8, ASM managing director David Stroud said European airlines and airports were experiencing headwinds, with some smaller airlines failing, air traffic management issues, and uncertainty generated by Brexit.

Nevertheless, the European airline market remained “very vibrant” with more than 600 million extra passengers forecast for the next 20 years.

One of the most telling indicators of that vibrancy, Stroud noted, was the number of new route announcements—752 in the six months since September 2018, including 308 since March this year.

“That’s a fantastic statement of activity,” Stroud said. “We clearly sit in an industry of growth and that won’t change. Long term, demand for travel will fuel growth. More than 600 million extra passengers are forecast in the next 20 years; there’s a 4% growth for the 2019 schedules and 287 European airports are involved in capacity improvement projects.

“Airports should take the time to understand the airlines and how they are working and how they are thinking.”

Part of a change in thinking by airlines was how they increasingly see themselves as data-tech businesses. European ultra-LCCs easyJet and Ryanair were good examples. EasyJet is hiring 50 data scientists while Ryanair is investing in data labs. Data is allowing airlines to do deep analysis of passenger markets and to further break down and identify market segments.

Data analysis can also help airlines identify where companies are located in the world and how they want to connect with the supply chain; and it can see which postal code districts are driving markets.

“Every airport has a catchment area, but you have to listen to the airlines and think like them about data and demonstrate how you can deliver the market to them and realize the traffic,” Stroud said. “Air service development is a big task; work together with cities to find city pair partnerships.”

Karen Walker